First there was education money, then there wasn't, then there was a little bit. Now it looks as though some number of billions of dollars (details remain sketchy) will be flowing to schools via the federal Title I program as a result of the Economic Recovery Act (aka, the stimulus package). Hey, guess what? We're a Title I district! Title I, for any not familiar, is
ensuring that high-quality academic assessments, accountability systems, teacher preparation and training, curriculum, and instructional materials are aligned with challenging State academic standards so that students, teachers, parents, and administrators can measure progress against common expectations for student academic achievement.
At least that's what the US Department of Education's website says about it. Basically, grant funding is available for schools with students who are at risk; it now appears that more funds will be available, presumably to modernize schools and build upon existing Title I literacy programs.
I think I could figure out how to use some extra Title I funds to modernize schools in my district without too much trouble. We've already made some serious strides, rolling out carts of MacBooks, large labs, thin clients, etc. However, there are a few areas that might really benefit from some stimulus, some of which could also employ local workers (the manufacturing plant around which our town grew in the last century has cut down to 4-day work weeks in the face of the recession).
1:1 is a no-brainer in this case. Netbook technology, particularly in the form of convertible Classmate PCs, has matured to a point, as have usage models, that 1:1 really makes sense if the money is there. We don't need Classmates for all students; younger students could continue using the MacBooks, while students at the high school and middle school could certainly use our existing labs. However, by providing students in grades 3-6 with Classmates and offering substantial subsidies to other students in grades 7-12 who wanted to buy a Classmate, a huge number of kids could have access to computers before, during, and after school.
This helps kids directly, but it's not doing much to stimulate the economy. To that end, I would employ members of the community affected by work reductions and layoffs removing all of the outdated Cat 5 Ethernet cable strung haphazardly over the years through our buildings. Wherever necessary, local electricians would train community members to pull cable, punch down new Cat 6, and allow the schools to start moving at gigabit speeds. Those who couldn't pull cable would handle full documentation and schematics, since most of the schools were wired in sections over several years.
Good computer usage patterns require good spaces, so classrooms would be renovated to create spaces where kids could easily work together: small spaces and perches for the younger kids, large conference-style desks for the older kids, and mini-labs and workstations for the youngest with their MacBooks.
All of these computers would need to be configured and deployed and parents would need to be trained to ensure appropriate, safe use at home. By training members of the community and employing them to handle the configurations and training sessions, we could extend their employment during the rollout of the new computers.
It won't bring us out of our recession, but I can imagine plenty of innovative ways to use the school modernization funds for economic boosts at the community level. How will you spend the stimulus money if any makes its way to your district?